[mythtv] virtual tuner via BitTorrent plug-in

Justin Moore justin at cs.duke.edu
Tue Apr 17 00:58:47 UTC 2007

Note: IANALBIHSCLAALS (but I have studied copyright law at a law
school).  The comments below apply to US copyright standards only.  They
are my opinion, and not those of a lawyer, my employer, my employer's
lawyers, my cats, or my employer's lawyers's cats.

> IANAL, but TV is basically considered as a performance.
> Live TV is an artistic creation as it is being shown,
> anything pre-recorded is purchased by the station or
> network, from the creator, with specific rights of use
> (the license).
> (Not that there is anything artistic about most of the junk
> that they transmit, but copyright is about artistic work)
> So, a worst case copyright judgement might be:
> > a scenario: I can (and do) record via MythTV the Fox TV show 24, in  
> > HD,
> > using an OTA antenna.
> Infringement 1. Illegal copying of a licenced performance.

Wrong.  Broadcasters do not currently have any copyright-type control
over the content they distribute.  In the context of television there is
no such thing as a "licensed performance".  You did not sign a license
when you turned on your television, especially if you're just pulling
the show OTA, so there is no license.  Only copyright law applies.  As
for the copyright law side of things, the Supreme Court held that
time-shifting is a fair use of copyrighted material.

> > I also have MythTV remove the commercials,
> Infringement 2. Modifying non-licenced material.

Wrong.  See point (1) about the lack of any license.  As for the
modification itself, it is the distribution or publication of modified
work that generally runs afoul of copyright law.  For example, I can go
out and buy a copy of the "Hacking MythTV" book (or, in my case, request
it as an Xmas present :)); once the book is mine I can scan it into my
home computer, print out dozens of copies, shred those copies, use text
or image editing programs to manipulate the copies I have to say "Justin
r0x0r5", and pretty much do anything I want with them.

I cannot, however, distribute those modifications without running afoul
of copyright law.

> > so when I watch the show
> Infringement 3. Re-performing non-licenced material.

Wrong.  See point (1) about the lack of a license.  Also see point (2)
about private use versus public distribution.

> ...
> > Say I miss an episode for whatever reason and I hypothetically  
> > download
> > the show and watch it
> (assuming you are downloading, rather than watching a stream)
> Infringement 4. Posessing non-licenced material, and

Wrong.  There are only three types of copyright infringement: direct,
contributory, and vicarious.  There is no such things as "possession of
non-licensed material".

> Infringement 5. Re-performing non-licenced material.

Wrong.  See point (3).

> ...
> > The show
> > is broadcast freely over the air for anyone with the proper  
> > equipment to
> > receive it
> Receive and watch it, at the time they "perform" it,
> in the environment they decree (i.e. with adverts).

It is not a performance, it is a distribution.  US law allows for time
shifting and other MythTV goodness.

> > Some shows allow you to download the episodes from their
> > website, so again, where is the problem exactly?
> Different license, and usually very different quality,
> so that you will want to see the latest episode,
> in all its prime-time, commercial laden, glory.

And by "different" I can only assume you mean "there is one when
downloading off a station's website and there is none when getting OTA

As for the "I own the [DVD|CD|whatever] so I can download it, right?",
that argument is BOGUS.  It doesn't matter if you already own the
content in one form.  You cannot go and download it off the 'net (i.e.,
requesting and therefore causing the uploader to make and distribute an
illegal copy of the show) just because you can't find the disc in your
mess of an apartment/house/whatever.

As for the virtual tuner, I think it would (in theory) be neat and
perfectly legal for MythTV to integrate RSS feeds/bittorrent downloads
from legal sources such as those listed here:


However, I will certainly respect the wishes of the MythTV devs and not
push for such a feature.


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